Laura Turnbull, Etai BenShlomo, and Avi Hoffman in My Name Is Asher Lev.
George Schiavone

My Name Is Asher Lev at GableStage Through December 22

My Name Is Asher Lev is a memory play about religious orthodoxy, modern art, and the incompatibility of these two concepts, adapted by Aaron Posner from a best-selling tome by the author and rabbi Chaim Potok. Asher (Etai BenShlomo) narrates the action from his perch as a young artist from a Hasidic Brooklyn family, taking us back to his first drawings as a 7-year-old and gradually moving toward the present, when his controversial paintings have become beautiful and blasphemous, celebrated and degraded. Along the way, his passion for art constantly confronts his heritage, with his parents, Aryeh and Rivkeh (Avi Hoffman and Laura Turnbull), all but disowning him. Despite moments of levity, the tone is funereal; it has the feel of Important Art from the very first moment, but a sense of urgency is largely absent, ditto catharses. Still, the poetry in Potok's prose powerfully hugs the coveted border between the specific and the universal, particularly when delivered by BenShlomo in a deeply felt and compassionate performance rich in nuance.


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